WATCH: President Biden Talks Importance Of Knowing ALL U.S. History At White House Screening Of ‘Till’

On Thursday (February 16), President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden invited what appeared to be over 100 guests to the White House for a special Black History Month screening. The chosen film was Tilla historical rendition of Emmett Till‘s 1955 lynching and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley‘s relentless pursuit of truth and justice.

The Shade Room was among the guests of the private event, which included the presence of Danielle Deadwyler, Whoopi Goldberg, a relative of Till, and high school students from Mississippi and Chicago–to name a few.

Before the screening began, President Biden greeted the audience with a short speech highlighting the importance of knowing real U.S. history.

“To remember history is to shine a light on the good, the bad, the truth, and who we are as a nation. Our history shows that while darkness and denialism hide very much, they erase nothing,” Biden said. “You can’t erase the past, and you shouldn’t. Only with truth comes healing and justice and prepare and another step forward to that promise we all made but have never reached for one perfect union. That we’ve never fully given up on.”

But President Biden’s comments likely wouldn’t be popular in Florida’s recent educational climate. In January, Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ administration blocked advanced placement (AP) African-American studies from being taught in high schools. According to NBC News, Florida’s education department rejected the AP course in a letter to the College Board, which oversees advanced placement classes and credits.

Their letter said the AP African-American course is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” However, it failed to specify which lessons the state feels violate its laws. Meanwhile, the College Board’s website says the AP African-American course blends literature, political science, geography arts, and humanities and has been in the works for over ten years.

And this isn’t the first time DeSantis has opposed race-based teachings. Last year, he signed legislation restricting race-based engagements in schools and the workplace. The governor’s latest attack on AP education sparked threats of a lawsuit by local students.

Unlike DeSantis’ administration, Biden preached the importance of non-selective learning.

“That’s why we can’t just choose to learn what we want to know…we should know. We should know everything about our history,” President Biden said. “And that’s what great nations do…and we’re a great nation. That’s why history matters so much. That’s why this film matters so much.”

DETAILS: Inside The House ‘Till’ Screening And Biden’s Speech About Lynchings

Invitees entered through the East Wing with a seamless check-in process guarded by staff and plenty of Secret Service officers. At the doorway, The Shade Room spoke to political commentator Ana Navarro and EGOT winner Whoopi, who complimented TSR with an “I love The Shade Room.”

Outside the screening room, the White House arranged two tables of movie snacks, including bite-sized candy and chocolate, popcorn, sodas, and water. A string quartet played live music, and staff generously greeted and guided guests.

For those who haven’t seen the film, Danielle portrays Mamie. Whoopi portrays Mamie’s mother, Alma Carthan. Though they were both present, President Biden was the only person who spoke to the audience. At one point, he highlighted the antilynching bill passed in 2022–decades after Till’s murder.

“…It’s almost exactly one year ago that I signed a law more than 100 years in the making,” Biden said. “One of the great honors of my career, The Emmett Till Antilynching Act, making lynching a federal hate crime.”

Between 1882 and 1968, over 3,400 Black people were lynched in the United States, per Tuskegee Institute archives. Mississippi, where Emmett was lynched, has the highest reported cases of Black people being lynched at 539. Finally, after 200 failed attempts, the House passed the antilynching bill with a 422-3 vote in early March 2022. Biden signed it into law on March 29. Per the law, the hate crime is punishable by up to 30 years.

During Thursday’s screening, Biden described lynching as “pure terror.” He highlighted how Black people were killed for “trying to vote, trying to go to school, trying to own a business, trying to preach the gospel,” and “simply being Black.”

President Biden Credits Black Press For Fearlessly Reporting Emmett Till’s Lynching

President Biden closed his remarks by highlighting the Black press’s essential role in spreading Till’s story. Jet Magazine published the photo of Till’s mutilated body, with Mamie’s permission, in 1955.

“There’s one more hero in this story you have to acknowledge…a lot of people forget this. The Black Press at the time. The times, the Jet Magazine, and other black newspapers were unflinching and brave in sharing the story of Emmett Till and searing it into the nation’s consciousness.”

At the end of his speech, the audience rose to their feet in applause. Throughout the 130-minute film, the audience sniffled and wiped tears. White House staff had previously placed tissues on the seats in anticipation of emotional reactions to the screening.

After the film ended, Danielle and Whoopi floated through saloon-styled rooms decorated with antiqued paintings, tableware, and giant mirrors, talking to guests and taking photos. White House staff handed out bite-sized treats, appetizers, desserts, filled champagne flutes, and wine glasses.

In Biden’s closing quote of Ida B. Wells:

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon the wrongs,” he said said. “That’s our charge today and still exists.”

Cassandra S

I like to tell stories, pretend I'm funny and experience everything so I can tell more stories. I love the truth and I'm great at verifying it.